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Effortless Fennel, Sausage & Tomato Tray-Bake

No one in my family likes fennel.  Or at least they didn’t until last weekend, when I set out to change their minds by making this tray-bake brimming with lovely fresh fennel, snappy pork chipolatas, shallots and dear little carrots.

Fennel, Sausage & Tomato Tray Bake
Roasting vegetables concentrates their flavours and brings out 
the sweetness in shallots, carrots and fennel.

My husband, who loathes the taste of aniseed, demolished his plateful – ‘But the fennel is so sweet and delicious!’, he cried – and so did two of the teens.  So there you go: you can bend your family’s tastes to your will if you persist.

I added the pork sausages because they taste wonderful with fennel, but mostly because everyone in my household adores them. If I sprinkled them cunningly around the dish, I reasoned, they’d make the medicine go down, and they did.

This is an absolute breeze  to make, and (as is the case with all wonderful, abundant tray bakes) you can add anything else you might fancy – black olives and feta at the end, for example. I’ve used a simple dressing (I like to think of veggie tray-bakes as cooked salads) of lemon juice and olive oil, with just a little garlic and white wine, but feel to experiment with other ingredients, plus herbs of your choice. I’m very fond of rosemary with fennel, but this would also be good with plenty of fresh thyme.

If you can’t find shallots – which are still like hens’ teeth in Cape Town; these ones are from Woolies – use onions, quartered lengthways, or whole pearl onions.

Fennel, Sausage & Tomato Tray Bake
Top-quality veggies make all the difference here.

Fennel, Sausage & Tomato Tray Bake
4 large fennel bulbs, trimmed
500 g cherry tomatoes, halved
350 g shallots, or 4 onions, quartered lengthways
a large sprig of rosemary, leaves stripped
250 g baby carrots
300 g pork chipolatas (If you can’t find tiny ones, buy the finger-length ones and twist each one into two)
flaky sea salt and milled black pepper

For the dressing: 
4 Tbsp (60 ml) olive oil
3 Tbsp (45 ml) white wine
2 Tbsp (30 ml) fresh lemon juice, plus extra for sprinkling
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely grated
1 tsp (5 ml) brown sugar

Heat the oven to 190 ºC.  Cut the stalks off the fennel and slice the bulbs lengthways into quarters (or sixths, if they are very large). Use a paring knife to chip away any tough pieces of white core.

Put all the ingredients for the bake in a large, deep roasting tray.  Season generously with salt and pepper, and scatter the rosemary leaves over the top.   Whisk together the dressing ingredients, pour this over the contents of the tray. Mix well so every piece is coated – I use my hands for this.

Cover the dish tightly with tin foil and bake at 190 ºC for 30 minutes.  Now remove the foil, turn the oven up to 200 ºC (fan on, if your oven has one) for 25-30 minutes, or until all the moisture has evaporated, the fennel is tender and sticky, and the sausages are a rich brown.

Sprinkle a few drops of lemon juice over the tray and take it hot to the table.

Serves 4 as a generous main dish; 6 as a side. 

More of my fennel recipes:

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